Orange sees no gloom in first-half results

Stating that there is no gloom at Orange SA, the French mobile phone group on Thursday reported a reduced net loss, compared to pro-forma figures for the first half of the year.

The group, created last year out of the merger of the mobile assets of France Télécom SA and of Orange PLC in the U.K., reported a net loss of 500 million euros (US$425 million, as of June 30, the last day of the period being reported). This compared to a pro-forma net loss of 592 million euros in the first half of last year, treating the companies as if they were already merged in the first half of 2000.

Revenue at the group, which has its main operations in France and the U.K., jumped 31 percent to 7.1 billion euros from 5.4 billion euros (again, based on pro-forma figures for last year).

Net debt also grew, from 5 billion euros at the end of last year, to 6 billion euros on June 30.

"There may be gloom in today's equity markets; there is none at Orange," said Jean-François Pontal, chief executive of Orange, in the company's financial report, adding that the company has new products and services under way to keep the gloom out.

Orange expects 25 percent of its revenue to come from non-voice services by 2005. To illustrate the growth, the company said 2.4 billion SMS (Short Message Service) text messages were carried by its networks in the U.K. and France in the first half of the year, an increase of 57 percent over the second half of last year.

For the full year 2000, Orange expects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to reach 3 billion euros, beating market expectations, according to a company statement.

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